This simple backyard water play activity is a super way for kids to learn about colour-mixing, to strengthen fine and gross motor skills, and it’s a terrific way for children to keep cool on a hot, summer day!
This coloured water activity is one of our favourites from our collection of simple science activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
The hooligans love it when I set up a water bin in the backyard. and they especially love a coloured water activity. I add food colour to almost all of our water bins because colour makes any water activity a little more exciting.
We called this the “colour laboratory” because the children work like little chemists throughout the morning, pouring and mixing and measuring with a variety of containers and instruments. Our colour laboratory is very easy to pull together, and it won’t cost you a cent.
Setting up your colour laboratory activity:
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Raid your bathroom and kitchen cupboards, and your recycle bin to gather up an assortment of interesting plastic containers and instruments such as:
- dish soap
- squeeze bottles (dish soap, shampoo, ketchup, body wash salad dressing)
- pump bottles (hand soap)
- syringes and Medicine Droppers
- test tubes
- spray bottles
- ice cube trays
- small plastic bowls and dishes
- measuring scoops
- craft sticks
- liquid watercolours or food colouring (see Amazon links below)
*white bowls and ice cube trays are best for viewing the changes in water colour
We filled each bottle up with warm water and a drop or two of dish soap. Then we added a few drops of liquid water colours, and gave it a good shake.
Liquid water colours are very vibrant, and you only need a few drops to get intense colours. Wilton Icing Gels are an excellent alternative; a small amount will produce a really rich colour. Liquid food colour will work too. You’ll just need to add a generous amount if you want intense colours.
Let the fun begin!
What do they learn by playing with coloured water?
After colouring the water, the girls were pretty excited, so they quickly donned their aprons, and got started. They poured, filled, squeezed, scooped, transferred and dumped the water from container to container, ooohing and aaaaahing as the colours changed before their eyes.
It looks like child’s play, but there is so much brain and body development happening here.
Little hands are learning how to grasp and carry wet and sometimes heavy containers without spilling or dropping. Through trial and error, they’re figuring out how to pour just the right amount to fill a container, controlling then slowing and finally stopping the flow. And they discover what happens when there’s an overflow.
Look at the concentration as this little one lines up the test tubes and transfers water from one to another, and how she’s managed to hold two test tubes in one hand.
Fine motor skills and strength are required to open lids and to use the syringes and droppers.
Muscles are challenged as they lift full and manipulate heavy bottles. As this little one struggled with the green bottle, she huffed and puffed and said “too heavy” several times, but she stuck with it, and was able to line it up, and fill the container underneath it. Success!
They stirred and whisked the water to revive the dish-soap bubbles,
and of course they learned about colour mixing…
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.